Category Archives: Collectables

Day 107

This is a picture of a coin that were are often asked about. It’s a single metal £2 coin. They were produced between 1986-96 and although they were supposedly for circulation you rarely saw one and they didn’t really catch on. They were replaced by the bimetallic type, originally planned for 1997, but not actually released until 1998.

We often get phone calls from people, who think they have a rarity because they have never seen one of the older sort. This is easily explained by the fact that the old type is at least 26 years old and even then you would need a good memory fro a coin you rarely saw.

However, I cannot explain the fixation some people have for the “solid gold” version. They ring up, they tell us they have the solid gold version, they won’t accept that it is extremely unlikely and they invariably demand that we tell them where to go to get it confirmed. The truth is that there were very few of the gold proof versions made. They were expensive and it’s unlikely that anyone ever took them out of their box, threw the certificate away and spent it as a £2 coin.

There were millions of them minted. Mintage figures for the 1995 Dove of Peace coin is 4,391,248. Mintage for the gold version is 1,000. So, even if all things were equal, the odds are 4,391 to 1 against it being a gold coin. If you allow for the fact that it is extremely unlikely that any were taken out of their packaging (let’s say this happened to 10 of them – bearing in mind they cost about £1.000 and people are going to be careful with them) the chances are 439,125 to 1 against it being a gold coin.

If I were to get one call a day about this, the chances are that I will die of old age several times over before someone rings with a loose gold coin.

However, this doesn’t stop people ringing, convinced that I’m an idiot because I don’t believe their brass coin is gold.

The coin in the picture is gold. It is, as you can see, in a plastic capsule inside a box, with a certificate. And, no, I don’t know why a coin with a mintage of 1,000 needs a numbered certificate with a number over 2,000, but I’ve seen it before

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Obverse

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Obverse

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Reverse

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Reverse

Day 97

I’m sixty-three years old and I just did something I’ve never done before.

New things are quite common when you are young, but I honestly thought that apart from a colonoscopy I had no novel experiences left in life. I suppose there’s still bigamy and necromancy but, to be honest, I prefer a warm drink and a spot of TV.

So, you ask, what did I do? I “checked all” on my ASDA shopping and pressed the “order” button. It took about ninety seconds to do the shopping. It’s not something I normally do because it’s supposedly bad for the diversity of your diet. However, it will be three weeks since our last  ASDA order so it’s not a real duplication. Ninety seconds to do a week’s shopping, and that included selecting the time slot. I’m impressed. Of course, by the time I’ve been informed that much of it is out of stock, I suppose it will take a bit longer.

I’ve just had another poem accepted. It sounds like the magic has worn off a little when I put it like that. I sent ten off, so I also had nine rejected, but it doesn’t sound quite so impressive put like that.

On the other hand, it’s a tanka, so it’s only five lines. I suppose a proper poet would only consider it a verse. Of course, a proper poet would say “stanza”. I’m not sure when this happened, they were definitely “verses” when I was at school.

Medal for the closing of the Central Ordnance Depot 1982 – it refers to the explosion in 1918 which killed 134 people. At the time it was suggested that the factory staff should be awarded a collective VC because of the speed they returned to full production.

Finally, in a day of novelty and adventure, I’ve been asked if I can do another talk at the Numismatic Society. There are two ways that you can take this. My first thought was relief, as it shows my last one, on the Peace Medals of 1919, wasn’t too bad. My second reaction was, obviously, panic. Fortunately it’s planned for the early part of 2023 so I have  a year to prepare. As you may recall from the previous one, that’s eleven and a half months to think and two weeks to panic.

My subject is “A Hundred Years of Medallions” and will be about my attempt to form a collection of medallions – one for each year from 1900 to 2000. It’s actually 101 years, but as nobody agrees when the century starts and ends I thought I’d avoid the argument and just add an extra medallion.

Magistrates’ Court Medallion – two new courts were opened in 1996 – Nottingham and Mansfield

There’s an obvious flaw in my plan. After three years of thinking about it, I’ve only just started collecting the medallions seriously. So far I have secured 44, leaving me with 57 to go. I’ll have more by the time the talk comes round, so there will be plenty to talk about. All I need is the slides and photos.

Talking of which, I can’t remember where I put the stick with the last presentation on it, so at the moment I can’t even remember how many slides I’m going to need.

The header picture is a bronze medal designed by Paul Vincze for the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Birth. The others have titles attached.

Royal Wedding Medallion 1947 – a time of national shame at the poor quality medallions that were being produced.

Day 42

I just looked at the title, and thought, that only leaves 323 days until the end of the year. Give it three weeks and the year will be 1/6th gone. And what have I done? Well, apart from moaning about the cold, worrying about WW3 and putting off the housework? I know they are all important things, but they aren’t real achievements are they?

I’m getting ready to put a few better bits on eBay for work and, at home, to catalogue my collection of plastic transport tokens. Here’s a question for you, what are collectors of transport tokens called?answer (in the US at least) is Vecturist). In the UK, they just call us anoraks. Even coin collectors look down on us as being peculiar. The hobby is much more developed in the US. There are also more serial killers in the US. I’m not saying the two things are linked, but you have to wonder . . .

The pictures for today are two pieces of coin jewellery. The header picture is a 1901 penny which has been cut away and made into a brooch. It’s fine work and it’s a shame the pin is missing. It isn’t much worn, which makes me think it was probably made in about 1901, maybe as a piece of mourning jewellery for Queen Victoria. It is very dark and the patina may have been artificially applied.

The other is an enamelled bronze brooch (also lacking a pin) which has had a farthing mounted in the centre. This, as the inscription shows, is definitely a piece of mourning jewellery. The maker’s mark is “W.J.D” which is W. J. Dingley, a Birmingham manufacturer of everything from high quality trophies to mass market badges.

When I found them (I was going through one of the junk boxes) I thought of adding them to my collection, as I have a few bits of coin jewellery, but decided against it, as it’s time to start cutting back, not adding to the burden of whoever has to sort out my collections.

If things had gone a different way I may, by now, have become a leading authority on mourning jewellery. Instead, I’m a shop assistant. Sic transit gloria mundi, as they say.

Penny Brooch – front view

Penny Brooch showing rear view with Britannia and the date 1901

Penny Brooch showing rear view with Britannia and the date 1901

With modern penny for size comparison

With modern penny for size comparison

Day 18

Day 18 passed in much the same way as Day 17, but without the element of anticipation that you get after a Sunday off. In that respect it was very much like Day 11. I expect that Day 25 will be similar.

It was also like Day 17, in that I have a few ideas for writing, but didn’t do much about it. The trouble with giving days numbers is that the passing of time is much more noticeable and there is nowhere to hide. “Next Wednesday” is quite a friendly place, in a soft and woolly future. “Day 26” is much sharper, and leaves you in no doubt that you have seven days to do something, and that when it arrives the deadlines are only five days away (the days leading up to Day 31 are going to be interesting.)

I bought 500 items on eBay last night. They were very cheap, just pennies each and will, eventually, help finance my collecting habit. Julia will be delighted when she finds out and will no doubt be keen to congratulate me on my financial acumen and the purchase of more clutter. That’s why I’m letting her know via the blog. I don’t want to be in the room when she finds out. I could, I suppose, conceal this from her, but she will eventually notice a big box of plastic tokens no matter what I do.

When I have  a few minutes I will prepare more posts on collectables to leaven the musings on mortality, boredom and the passage of time. However, despite all my attempts to put it off, I need to go for a blood test now. It’s not procrastination if you put it off because you have to do something important.

I had some haiku turned down yesterday, which means I am currently running with one acceptance and one rejection so far this year. The editor sent a longish email and included a useful link to help me do better. The problem I find with haiku is that although they are small poems they come with a lot of conventions attached (some call them rules, though this isn’t quite accurate) and I never quite manage to remember them all at the same time. It’s a bit like that hypothetical over-filled bookshelf – you put a book on one end and one falls off the other. That’s my brain . . .

The picture is a small Royal Artillery sweetheart brooch carved from mother of pearl. They are generally from the First World War usually, I’m told,  made in Palestine. I include it as it’s a new picture and illustrates my inability to stop collecting things.

Communion Tokens and Family History

The top picture is of a Communion Token issued by the Relief Church in Annan.

There are about 6,000 types of Scottish Communion Tokens known. Their history stretches back to the early days of Protestantism, when many churches held closed communions and  only admitted those they felt were worthy of the sacrament. They are generally simple, with a basic design, cast from lead.

The Relief Church was not, as I assumed, a Church to accommodate people who couldn’t get into a crowded main church, it was a Church formed by people looking for relief from the patronage that was common in the Church of Scotland at the time. I assume that they equated patronage with corruption.

Communion Token – Annan

The second one is another from Annan. It’s very worn but you can just make out the name.

The tokens are mostly from the early 19th century and it is possible that my great-great-grandfather, or possibly another relative may have handled it. I know they were churchgoers because my great-great Grandfather supposedly left Scotland after a falling out with the church. However, having just checked Ancestry, I see that at least one great-great-great- grandfather and two great-great-great- grandmothers all died in Blackburn, so they may all have left together. Family stories are like that.

Why, I hear some of you wonder, leave the beauty of Scotland for the dark satanic mills of Lancashire? Well, I’ve only visited Annan twice and didn’t stop either time. It appears to be very grey,uninviting and drizzly, though that might not be a fair test of its charms. Blackburn, on the other hand, though it is undoubtedly a blot on the landscape, was a boom town at the time, and offered the promise of jobs, even if they did involve unsafe working practices, child labour and lung disease.

Newington Communion Token –  in better condition than the other two

This is the other side of the Annan token

I just realised the tokens have no size reference – they arn’t as big as they look on the screen – about an inch to an inch and a half long.

 

An Unusual Medallion and Some Reflections on Life

As we sorted through our stock yesterday, adding items relevant to the Duke of Edinburgh, we found this medallion. It is, according to the books, the only souvenir medallion issued for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten.  The wedding, in 1947, came at a bad time for commemorative medals, as raw materials were in short supply and I assume people were thinking of other things.  In 1951, the Lesney company (later to be makers of the famous Matchbox range) nearly closed down because they were unable to get supplies of zinc, due to the needs of the Korean War. We also had bread and potato rationing in the years after the war due to bad harvests, neither of which had been rationed in the war.

A a further example of royal hand-me-downs, as mentioned in the above link. The famous Coronation coach model made by Lesney (a million selling souvenir) was originally designed as a commemorative for George VI and later remodelled after his death to become the Coronation coach model for the Queen. Cynicism in royal souvenirs has clearly existed for some time.

Royal Wedding Medallion 1947 Reverse

 

Royal Wedding Medallion 1947 Reverse

It’s not the most6 artistic medallion, but it does the job and shows a feature of many royal commemoratives, which persists to the present day – the Queen is depicted using a good likeness and the Duke is only identifiable as the Duke because he is next to his wife. I have other examples of this, but won’t bore you with them.

 

 

 

 

It appears that it wasn’t just me who thought the TV coverage hit the wrong note. I know it’s difficult but turning over both BBC channels to coverage of the Duke was, I feel, excessive. I thought that coverage of Diana’s demise was over the top, but it was at least unexpected, and it was news. Having said that, I have still not forgiven the British public for their great outpouring of grief for someone who, and I pick my words carefully, wasn’t really of much importance to most of us. It seems the BBC have probably overreacted because they were criticised for their lack of seriousness in dealing with the death of the Queen Mother.  I can’t remember what they did, so it was probably about right.

It’s an example of the way things have changed. In 1947 Britain still made things, These days we ship huge quantities of goods into the country from China. Plastic, in those days, was a wonder material. These days it’s held to be responsible for so much that is wrong with the way we live. In 1947 we produced a white metal medallion as a commemorative. Today, I am bracing myself for a deluge of low quality commemorative coins.

He has, it seems, left instructions for his funeral to be simple, which is pretty much what you would expect from a man who used to cook his own breakfast (in contrast to some of his bone-idle issue).

 

Two New Sweetheart Brooches

US Navy Sweetheart Brooches – the penny is 20.3 mm in diameter. An American cent has a diameter of  19.05 mm for those of you who like to know these things.

Despite the need to spend money on the house, and to declutter, I am still browsing eBay, and still adding a few items to my collection. If you want to see other examples , I have written about  Sweetheart Brooches in a previous post,

My collecting started over 50 years ago.  I was about five or six when I started collecting badges. A few years later my Dad gave me his stamp collection (which had been untouched since he had left the Navy). I added a few to it, then went into coins, bird’s eggs (yes, I know this was bad) and military medals. I’ve carried on sporadically ever since. At times I’ve been busy or broke, so there have been long gaps between purchases. However, with eBay , a regular income and the time that comes from having no kids around the place, I have been slowly adding to the collection again.

The latest two are both American and Naval. I don’t collect Navy brooches to the same extent as I collect the army ones but I always like to add a different type when  I find one. American brooches are often sentimental/patriotic rather than military in style, though there are some more military ones. They also tend to have more bracelets than we do. Generally I don’t collect brooches from beyond the Commonwealth forces, but if I see an unusual type I can be tempted.

US Navy Sweetheart Brooch – with PO Class II badge

A couple of months ago I was tempted by the brooch with the Eagle and Chevrons. I think it is the badge of a Petty Officer Class II but I’m relying on the internet for this, as I’m not sound on US Navy badges. I have a couple of other brooches with this sort of chain set-up but this is better quality, and it’s always nice to upgrade. Collecting sweethearts, you will never get every possible type, so there’s no point trying. Compared to the tyranny of trying to collect one of every known date of a coin, this is a very relaxed way of collecting. These days I just collect things that catch my eye, and where the price is right.

A couple of weeks ago, another one caught my eye. It’s exactly the same sailor and the same set-up but the device on the chain is the medal ribbon of the American WW2 campaign medal for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It was sold by the same dealer and is out of the same collection.

US Navy Sweetheart – Europe, Africa and the Middle East campaign ribbon

I’m now checking them regularly to see if they have any other varieties. With coins and medals all the varieties are known and catalogued (with the odd rare exception) but with sweetheart brooches you can’t know everything. There might be sailors with different devices attached, or there may be marines, soldiers or airmen. You never know…

 

US Navy Sweetheart – fine work

 

Danger UXB – Bomb Disposal in WW2

It’s not a very photogenic item, just  a rather dull cigarette case which I bought at an antiques fair one day. The interest lies in the inscription. It was presented to a member of the Royal Engineers for work in disposing of an unexploded bomb in 1942. The full text reads:

Presented to
SERGT. R.H. Woodrow R.E.
316161
in appreciation of courage shown
assisting Lieut. K. C. Revis R.E.
in defusing 1000 KG
PATCHAM.
13.5.42

Between 1939 and 1945 members of bomb disposal teams in the UK dealt with over 50,000 unexploded German bombs, 7,000 Anti-Aircraft shells and 300,000 beach mines. In the period 21st September 1940 to 5th July 1941 (known as “The Blitz”) an average of 84 bombs a day failed to explode on impact. Approximately one in 12 of them were designed to go off after a time delay, causing increased disruption to everyday life and, as a bonus, killing the men dealing with them. In all, 394 officers and men were killed dealing with unexploded ordnance during the war. Of these 235 were Royal Engineers working in the UK. The rest would be Royal Navy personnel, civilians and Home Guard (yes, they had their own bomb disposal units – usually based in factories and used to minimise damage and disruption to production.) olus those killed overseas. I’m afraid I can’t find figures that give a more accurate breakdown. Many more were, of course, injured.

Silver Cigarette case given to Sgt Woodrow

Patcham is part of Brighton, and during the war, being close to occupied Europe, the skies over Brighton we busy. There were 56 raids recorded on Brighton between 1940 and 1944, including one by a single bomber that killed 54 people on 14thn September 1940. A newspaper report of a post-war exhibition about the bombing mentions 636 high explosive bombs being dropped in the area during the war. Brighton was bombed on 56 occasions with 198 fatalities and 790 injuries of varying seriousness. The article says that the damage would have been far worse if it wasn’t for the number of bombs that failed to go off and specifically mentions a 1,000 kg bomb “which was dropped in a garden at Patcham by a bomber afterwards shot down on the downs in May 1942.”

I have not been able to find any information of Sergeant Woodrow, which is good in a way, as it means he survived the war. Hopefully he survived in one piece.

Lieutenant Revis survived the war too, though in his case there is some information available, and his story is quite harrowing.

He was interested in explosions as a boy, before moving on to the less dangerous hobby of riding motorcycles, became a civil engineer and, at the outbreak of war, was commissioned into the Royal Engineers and assigned to bomb disposal duties. His first bomb was a 500kg device in a Hastings garden and he defused hundreds of bombs up to 1,800 kg. It wasn’t an easy job and it was made harder by German attempts to kill or injure bomb disposal officers. As if the work wasn’t dangerous enough, they fitted booby traps to some bombs amd altered designs so that the common method of defusing a bomb one month became a way of detonating the bomb. However, Revis was not caught by a German bomb. It was a British one that caused his troubles.

In the early days of the war, piers were seen as a danger to security as they could have helped the Germans land troops during the planned invasion. As a result the east coast piers were partially dismantled and wired for demolition. In 1943, as the danger passed, we started to remove the explosives. Three years in a corrosive environment did not make this a simple job. Revis successfully defused the mines on the Palace Pier on 10th September 1943. He then moved on to the West Pier and had successfully defused six mines when the remaining mines exploded.

At one point a nurse pulled a sheet over him and he reputedly said: “Take that bloody thing off – I’m not dead yet”.

He was taken to east Grinstead Hospital where he became one of McIndoe’s Guinea Pigs. During his time in hospital he used a bed previously occupied by Richard Hillary, author of The Last Enemy, and was visited by an American airman called Clark Gable.

When the bandages came off, it was clear that he would never see again. Despite this, he taught himself to type and read braille, using what was left of his fingers, and he trained to work a capstan lathe, producing Spitfire parts. He was awarded the OBE for his bomb disposal work  and was asked by Sir Ian Fraser MP, a blind veteran of the great War, and head of St Dunstan’s (now Blind Veterans UK) to go to India to teach blinded veterans, which he did until 1947.

A brief summary of his later life includes qualifying as a solicitor, working as a Press Officer for Morris Motors, learning to water ski and flying a glider. He also drove a sports car down a runway at 100mph for a TV programme, as his wife sat in the passenger seat and gave directions. She must have been an extraordinary woman.

It doesn’t look much, but it’s the gateway to an extremely interesting story

He also appeared on This is Your Life and was the technical adviser for  episode 12 of Danger UXB, (1979) where he was played by Anthony Andrews. He also appeared on the documentary Danger! Unexploded Bomb (2001) and raised funds for the restoration of Brighton’s West Pier. It seems that several people asked him why he would want to return to it after what happened to him. His reply? “I suppose it’s the last thing I saw.”

It always amazes me what you can find on the internet these days. I’m not much of one for technology, as you know, and there are a lot of bad things about the internet, but if you need to find information on an engraved cigarette case, it’s obviously the place to look.

Close up the inscription from Revis tio Woodrow

Edit: I just searched “WW2 Patcham” and found this – for some reason I hadn’t thought to do it before.

 

 

 

Zimbabwe Hyper-inflation Money

A Day of Many Zeroes

It was an interesting day at work. We had someone in to buy gold, someone in to sell rubbish and someone who came in to waste our time chatting. He was my favourite visitor.

I put some Buffs medals on the internet, starting price 99 pence. They are quite common and the Buffs are not as keenly collected as the Freemasons.

RAOB Medals

RAOB Medals

I’ve photographed more banknotes, as you can see from the examples of Zimbabwean banknotes at the top of the page. They are examples of hyper-inflation money, though the one below is the most mind-boggling of the lot. Hyper-inflation is what you get when you have a megalomaniac clown as head of state. This post won’t sound quite so funny if you are reading it in a few years with Boris still in Number 10 and you have a £50 million note in your wallet.

They say that in Hungary during their hyper-inflation people were advised to pay as they ordered in restaurants and cafés because if they waited until the end of the meal it would have gone up.

Zimbabwe Hyper-inflation Money

Zimbabwe Hyper-inflation Money

One of my friends once sold a Zimbabwean note to an Eastern European with a tenuous grasp of capitalism – he came back twenty minutes later, having tried to exchange it in the nearest bank. Yes, he really thought he could get trillions of dollars by spending a few pounds on a banknote. God loves a tryer, as we often say in the trade.

Apart from that, nothing bad happened, and that counts as a good day the way things are going at the moment.

Cumberland Jacks

If you search through any junk box in a coin shop you can be almost certain to turn up a small brass counter, just under an inch in diameter, with a depiction of Queen Victoria on the obverse (front) and a figure on horseback on the reverse  (back) with the date 1837 and the words ‘To Hanover’.

I turned up nearly as dozen with a quick search today, and we’ve actually sold at least the same again to a collector who decided to add a few of the different types to his collection. Though they are broadly the same, they were made over a period of fifty years and many different dies were used, giving a variety of portraits, lettering and horsemen. There are even varieties where a monkey is said to replace the man, but that might just be a poor depiction of the rider’s face, allied to a good imagination.

The date and the head of Victoria provides a clue that this was about Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne, but what about Hanover and what about the horseman?

Hanover, in 1837, was still a possession of the British Kings, handed on from George I, who had been Elector of Hanover when he was offered the throne on the death of Queen Anne. It is an unusual Royal title and stems from the way the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was selected – by election. There were nine Electors – three Spiritual and (originally) four temporal. Two further temporal electors were added later – the last being Hanover in 1692.

In 1837 when Victoria came to the throne of Great Britain she was not able to take the throne of Hanover which adhered to the Salic law. This, amongst other things, prevented women from inheriting the throne.

The next male candidate was Victoria’s unpopular Uncle, Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale. He had led an interesting life – wounded twice in battle, and accused of murdering his valet, electoral fraud, incest, blackmail and adultery. He was also extremely anti-Catholic, a hard-line Tory and one of the die-hard Lords who voted against the Great Reform Bill of 1832. To be fair, much of his life was spent blamelessly and many of the accusations came from political rivals as his political input grew.

It is possible that he was not as bad as his reputation suggests, but it is true that his departure to Hanover was greeted with general approval and that the Cumberland Jack token, also known as a ‘To Hanover’, was produced as part of a celebration of his leaving.

The Hanoverians seemed happy enough with him, and once removed from Britain he seemed happy enough to treat both Catholics and Jews with courtesy, explaining that Hanoverian history gave him no reason to do otherwise. There were problems, such as when he deprived seven professors (including the Brothers Grimm) of their positions for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to him, and the troubles of 1848 which he resolved quickly by offering to step down and let the Prussians take over, but he generally seems to have been a reasonable and popular ruler.

His son George was born in Berlin in 1819 (his parents spending much time, in Germany) and was baptised by the Reverend Henry Austen, brother of the novelist Jane Austen. Austen was an interesting man, but his career is outside the scope of this post.

The Cumberland and Teviotdale title eventually became extinct in 1919 under the Titles Deprivation Act 1917 which removed British titles from those who had supported the Germans during the war.

The counters were used in card games, alongside a selection of other cheaply-produced brass tokens, as well as having a satirical and political function. If it is true that they were produced for  50 years, this use would account for it, as it would be a long time to bear a grudge against a man who died in 1851.

As you can see, they were struck from  a variety of dies. Queen Victoria was no great beauty when you look at much of the medallic art that pictures her, but on these tokens she comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, as does the reverse picture and lettering. It is hardly surprising, given the crudity of the pieces, that the man sometimes looks like a monkey.

Some of the dies were also used for advertising tokens – an article in a back issue of the Token Corresponding Society newsletter – Vol 6 Number 1 (1998) – newsletter gives a list of 12 tokens (including a To Hanover) struck using one particular obverse die.

Although I can find the information listed several times on the internet, I cannot find any legislation dated 1883, or several years around that date, which would appear to ban the production of these or other tokens.  However, ast the basck of my mind is the undeniable fact that the information on the internet all appears to be copies of just one article, and that source may be wrong.

More work, it seems, is necessary.